“Your broken heart…doesn’t seal back up….but…you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” Anne Lamott
“The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
This is the longest post I have ever written. I hope you can bear with me to the end. I also hope you will share the information in it with any you know facing a hysterectomy. And if you are grieving, I hope it helps
In my work and in my life, I have learned a lot about pain, physical and emotional. No one loves pain. No one wants to relive it by choice, except perhaps those who don’t really feel it. Rather, most of us want to deny it, bury it, or run as hard and as long as we can from it.
I have been running. For almost a year.
Doing this blog had been something I loved. Week after week I wrote, enjoying every minute, even when I had to work to cobble those minutes together. Any time I found a quote that intrigued me, I would move it into a draft post. That way I always had something percolating to write an entry. My blog was an anchor for me and a passion. I loved it.
…until we lost Linda. She was/is my husband’s younger sister. I met her when she was seven, almost eight, and in all the ways that matter she was my sister. I convinced her mother to let her get her ears pierced, told her the real truth Mom didn’t about the birds and bees, argued for her right to go to college and be more than a secretary, and went with her to pick out clothes for the trip she planned to Chicago to convince Frank, who became her husband, that they were so much more than friends. I shared her loss when her own Mom died, (also from cancer, also young at 58) before Linda married or had children of her own. I was her maid of honor.
I loved her. And we lost her to cancer spread by a procedure to remove fibroids that if had been done differently would have posed little risk. (See link below) And this has tied me in knots and left me hurting and angry, empty and grieving.
And this blog, well, I lost it, too. I always strove to write from a place of honesty and positive outlook. But as I struggled with losing Linda, I lost my footing. Nothing interested me enough to write about it and I fought to find balance. For me, being a blogger, like being a therapist, required moving an issue to a different frame, so that you (and I) could gain a different insight, see it from a more objective perspective.
Linda’s death altered my ability to sustain perspective. It was too close and it hurt too much. I needed to write about it, but I couldn’t talk about Linda from the distance that objectivity requires. Without that, I found it harder and harder to talk about anything else that way.
Gradually, little pieces of a balanced viewpoint came back…in small bursts. John Green says in The Fault in Our Stars, “Grief does not change you…it reveals you.” For me, this has been a bumpy process, flashes of revealing light, moments of darkness.
This summer I had a conversation with Jennifer Levitz, an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal. She wrote a story about Linda and the cancer that took her life that was published just after Lin’s death. They became close over the months of her illness and Ms. Levitz has continued Linda’s advocacy to get morcellators removed from use, (this is the surgical tool used for laparoscopic hysterectomies that cuts up fibroids and can spread undetected cancer within them.) Jennifer has helped keep the issue and the story alive. Now, thanks to her and to others, the FBI is investigating why the device wasn’t removed in 2006 when concerns first arose, the House has passed legislation on monitoring medical devices, and Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick and 11 other representatives have gotten a GAO investigation launched.
As we talked this summer, I realized Jennifer filled a critical role for Linda. Jennifer was that point of perspective and insight for her. She was a source of information and wisdom. She became a friend.
I have always been able to be that for others, but only rarely was able to do that for Lin her last year. I have beaten myself up pretty badly over this. But realizing that Jennifer provided it for her has really helped me. Linda needed someone to talk to who cared, but who wasn’t hurting over knowing they would lose her. Our pain could only multiply hers and what she already carried about her girls and her beloved husband, Frank. That was the greatest pain she spoke to me about, not what she was going through, but about how they would be without her, like she had been without Mom.
Ms. Levitz’s writing also provided a forum for doing something uncommon to Lin: taking center stage, not for herself, but for this issue, so no other woman would go through what she did. Linda did it despite being an introvert and very private person and it has made a difference. Jennifer told me she needed someone to put a human face to this issue. Linda was that brave face. The good that came from Ms. Levitz story is Linda’s legacy.
I have tried to continue Linda’s work by posting on Facebook, raising the issue, posting and emailing Jennifer’s articles. And the first blessing in this for me finally happened this month. The wife of a friend was about to have a hysterectomy. When he read one of my posts, he messaged me and they will not be doing it using a morcellator, as had been the plan. One life spared, perhaps. One out of 350 women have undetected cancer that is spread by this device.
Several things have finally helped me regain my perspective. First, in Linda’s memory, and for other family members, our daughter and I walked in a Light the Night Walk last Saturday in Raleigh. What an uplifting experience! Gretchen raised $1,000 for the Leukemia Lymphoma Association, matched by her company for a $2000 total. I raised a few hundred more. It is barely a beginning, but seeing the lanterns lit for those lost, those fighting, and for those providing support helped me see that darkness cannot overcome light. Light always prevails when it is shared.
This Saturday, one week later, Lin’s husband, Frank, and daughters, Katie and Grace, ran in her honor in LA virtually participating in a SlaySarcoma5K fundraiser created by Dr. Amy Reed and her husband, advocates in this fight, actually held in Pennsylvania. (Dr. Reed has Stage 4 cancer due to morcellization of a sarcoma). In Minnesota, Lin’s oldest brother, Don, and his daughter, Robin, also ran to stop this disease. Linda loved to run. She and Robin ran marathons together, and I think she would probably love the idea of a virtual race, feet up, drinking a beer, or by being in one virtually with her family. One way and another, all of us are keeping a light lit for her.
Finally, as I was finishing this, I went to see if Jennifer Levitz had written anything more about this recently. What I found was the news that her series on Linda and this issue was a top finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism. No one could deserve this honor more than Jennifer. Somewhere in heaven, I’m sure Linda is smiling.
I don’t know if any more bumps in the road remain for me, or if I will get back to weekly blogging. Some of my bumps have certainly been boulders. But I do know that the same ocean that flows to the beaches in East Dennis and into the safe Sesuit Harbor near Linda’s Cape Cod home, rolls onto the beaches here at the Outer Banks. Lin and I always thought Mom went with us when we walked the shore at Harbor Beach. Now, Linda and Mom walk together, and although I am limping and following behind on a different beach, I know someday we will dance in the waves together.